DIVORCE MADE EASY?
CHANGES TO DIVORCE LAWS
In December 2009, Attorney General Chris Bentley announced changes to divorce proceedings in Ontario. These changes are to be aimed at dealing quickly with divorce cases, whilst making them affordable and friendlier. The hope was also to resolve certain difficulties faced by the judicial system.
Why are these changes being implemented?
The present family court system is congested with more cases than it can adequately handle. This means that it may take up to three years for a custody battle to be heard, let alone resolved. Individuals, who cannot afford lawyers or voluntarily represent themselves, also add to the backlog. This puts further pressure on judges and delays the outcome of such cases.
The burden within the judicial system in Ontario is not fairly distributed. Toronto courts do not have a shortage of judges, whereas Newmarket and Brampton often struggle.
What good will come from these changes?
About $150 million has been devoted to legal aid over the next four years. It is anticipated that this assurance will enable more access to legal advice for couples divorcing.
Mediation and arbitration will be greatly encouraged. This will make the system more competent. More importantly, it will avoid unnecessary court room drama. Divorce and custody battles notoriously affect the children involved. This ‘combative’ approach can be replaced with a friendlier one.
Resources can be channeled in the right direction, expenses curtailed and time efficiently utilized. This will benefit the courts as well as the parties involved. Judges can focus on sensitive and high conflict cases that urgently require their attention.
These changes are expected to come in to effect in March this year. Brampton and Milton will be the first to witness these. Some experts welcome these reforms, believing that the government understands and cares. Others are a bit more skeptical.
They question how far these changes can stretch without any new funding. Critics appeal for a more unified system and specialized judges confident to deal with complex cases.
Securing the interests of all stakeholders, especially in complex family law structures is never straightforward. It is too early to predict the impact of these changes. Their true reach and outcome can only be assessed after their proper implementation.